What it’s like to do Delta and DipTESOL at the same time

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****Next parts (when I have time), will be a few of my “do’s and don’ts” for Delta and DipTESOL and maybe debunk some myths :)****

Before we start, I would like to say a few words that might help explain why I decided to take both diplomas and why some of my answers might

Delta vs. DipTESOL

not be as objective as I’d like. It’s important for me to explain this because that particular year of my life had been challenging and intense because of personal and professional reasons which have undoubtedly had an impact on the way I’ve seen and experienced the courses, making my point of view a little subjective in some cases as I’ll try to describe below.

I have been teaching English since I got back from Africa where I was a project manager, a freelance volunteer that worked with several NGO’s and organisations for seven years. Teaching was part-time and mainly one-to-one as I didn’t have formal training to be a teacher. I did CELTA and then became a full-time teacher all the way up to the present.

I decided to take it further and I looked up the options available to me to study. I already knew about Delta but then I discovered the DipTESOL and was attracted to the syllabi and saw that it was different from Delta in a few things, so I applied to both courses hoping to get accepted in one of them. But to my surprise, I got accepted on both and decided to invest in my training and do both of them.

During that year I’d had a lot of very intense, personal changes and I didn’t have time to recover from them before I started studying, which I believe had an impact on my performance, concentration and frame of mind. I went into these difficult courses tired and weary. They’re both long and intense courses and especially the full-time Delta M2 had a profound impact on me because I wasn’t ready for the amount of work I was expected to do. Then, with one week in between, I went to do another 3 weeks with the Dip and I got there exhausted. In hindsight, had I known what it would be like to do both diplomas in one year with everything going on in my life and working 35-38 hours a week at the same time, I wouldn’t have done it. But all things considered, I am very happy I did.

I’m not going to get into all the details of what you do on each course because there are websites that already explain or compare the two diplomas in detail like these:






Since I began, I’ve been talking to a few different people, education professionals and teachers and I have compiled some questions from real candidates, teachers and students that have done one or the other diploma and/or are considering taking up one of the diplomas. They’re by no means extensive or comprehensive but they do reflect questions people have, which I think is quite valuable.

As you read, please keep in mind it is not intended to reflect the respective handbooks’ information or the advertising of either course or anyone else’s opinions; I’m going to focus on what I experienced, from my point of view.

Question: Short intro to courses and who they are suitable for.

Teachers that have been teaching for some time and feel like they’ve stagnated in their professional development and need a boost, need to hone their skills and want to know the why not only the how of the things we do. They’re more practical than academically minded and don’t really want to know who said what and when but just want to know what works and why. It also might be a better course for teachers like me who don’t have an academic background or those who studied long ago and consider the practicality of teaching more important than the academic side of it. Teachers that have been teaching for some time and feel like they’ve stagnated in their professional development and need a boost, need to hone their skills and want to know the why not only the how of the things we do. They’re more academically minded and don’t mind digging and researching into published material, like to know who said what, when and the studies that went into it, as well as what works and why. They also might be more inclined to research themselves or need to for their positions or specialisms like Cambridge Examinations preparations where developing skills and strategies is important and there isn’t always a need to have a productive stage in the lesson.

Question: Benefits of gaining an OFQUAL level 7 qualification and recognition by employers.


The Dip is, unfortunately, less well known than Delta and many employers might not know exactly what it is. This is a problem I have personally had with one of my previous employers. They didn’t know what it was and therefore didn’t understand why I was doing it and literally told me I was wasting my time and I should focus on teaching instead.

All that aside, once pointed in the right direction and properly explained, employers find the Dip very valuable because of the young learners and the phonology modules.

The Delta is more widely and better known so usually requires less explanation than the Dip. But I’ve also had times where I had to point them in the right direction and explain to my employers what it was and why it is so valuable. Once they understood, new positions opened up, responsibilities and further challenges in the workplace which are all great.

Question: Do you think that M3 (the specialism in Delta) is useful or is it just a formality? (Galina, PhD Linguistics)

Personally, I feel that M3 is invaluable for positions of responsibility in teaching because it focuses on creating a needs analysis, diagnostic test and course for a group as dictated by the specialism. The first parts are common to all specialisms, what differs is the design of the parts according to the specialism. If one were to have the responsibility of creating a customised course that takes into account the specific needs of a certain group, for me this is essential training.

Question: they say that Delta is more theoretical… do you think it is worth it? (Galina, PhD Linguistics)

Answer: I’d personally say yes and no to Delta being more theoretical. It did seem to be more academic as in the research I had to put into the essays and lesson plans really was a lot more than for the Dip but at the same time, we had to show we knew how to apply that theory in the lesson itself. I personally like that approach and feel it’s necessary to have a good foundation into studies and research on SLA/ELT that has been done over the last few decades.

Question: How different are the syllabi? Are there any topics that are particularly favoured by Delta and by Dip? (Galina, PhD Linguistics)

Answer: I’d say that the biggest differences are the YL module and the Phonology interview in the Dip that Delta doesn’t have. Phonology is embedded in Delta in every lesson but doesn’t have such a strong focus as in the Dip, although you could also choose phonology as the focus in one of your assessed lessons. The Phonology interview on the Dip is interesting and I liked it, having to defend your take and approach to issues means that you have to have things very clear in your mind and they’re part of your daily routine, not just something you studied once long ago.

Question: Which of the diplomas make you feel more comfortable and confident in class? (Galina PhD Linguistics)

Answer: This is a difficult question to answer each diploma gave me different things. For me, I’d say it was after mainly after delta Delta because I had the time and support to really look things up, read and research. In my context, I teach a fair amount of teachers trying to upgrade their language and prepare for main suite exams. They ask very detailed questions and ones that I feel I could better answer after having the background I got from the more academic features in Delta. In Delta, extensive and comprehensive reading and researching is an integral part of the process and there’s no way around it and you can’t wing it. The result of this is that you end up getting a lot of input from the reading that you later have to put into practice during the assessed lesson exactly like you said you would, based on your research in the Background Essay and this, in particular, gave me the foundation in my knowledge I feel I needed because of my context.

From a solely teaching point of view (without having to comment on my choices or approaches in class with academic references to my students), I can also say that for me it was after the teaching practice during the Dip that things really clicked for me and fell into place, maybe because of the extra time I had to implement what I had been learning and because of the stronger focus to personalisation and differentiation on the Dip. The spoken reflection/feedback times before and after the lessons also pushed me to really have a clear rationale for what I was doing and be able to verbalise what I thought and why. I feel this gave me a huge boost in my confidence as a teacher when I explained my rationale and was met with approval and minor tweaks for my reasoning and approaches from world-class tutors.

Question: which of the diplomas drew the best out of you or stimulated your rapid professional growth more? After which of these diplomas you would feel more confident and willing to grow professionally and becoming the best version of yourself in the classroom? (Galina, PhD Linguistics)

Answer: Like I mentioned in the answer to the previous question, I feel that verbalising my rationale really drew out a side of me that needed to be worked on and I noticed a more confident and rapid growth in being able to draw on my knowledge to answer questions from a colleague or superior (tutor in this case) with ease.

For other reasons like getting a solid academic foundation due to the reading and research, I’d have to say it was after Delta and add that it was also because of the hands-on intensive approach which I respond well to and having 8 weeks dedicated solely to the course, peers and tutors around you with the same focus and everyone pushing in the same direction really worked for me. Additionally, I feel that after all the reading I did for the Delta M2 I have a good base to grow from if I were to go for a Masters next year.

Question: For each, what’s easier, more difficult, the one thing you would take away from doing it?


The hardest part was studying online, the time needed to research and read combining it with work and keeping up with the weekly deadlines. Then, getting through a total of four internally assessed and one externally assessed lessons in 3 weeks during the teaching practice. In my teaching practice, some assessed lessons were back to back (e.g. Monday and Tuesday) and that was very challenging because of the little time to prepare, each lesson plan taking me anywhere between 6-14 hours each.

The things I am very happy to take away from the Dip is having a clearer understanding of how to personalise and differentiate in the classroom, how to make phonology part of every lesson in a useful effective way and classroom management as we had groups of 17 students and above.

Without a doubt, the hardest part was the intensity of the course and the pressure to meet the assessed lesson deadlines because of all the reading and research needed. Applying everything was the next step and keeping track of everything I had to improve in from the feedback, then apply it in my next lesson was also very difficult as many times it was 5-10 things to do during the lesson apart from the lesson itself.

The things I’m happiest to take away from Delta is the ability to research on a topic, find the information and implement it. How to identify possible problems with learners’ skills and help them hone those specific skills and build strategies that will enable them to transfer their skills from their L1 and so further their L2 skills and abilities in a very real way. How to work with and use emergent language in the classroom and incorporate reactive teaching and Dogme into my lessons enabling me to adapt to emerging needs and issues. Dogme isn’t part of the syllabi but there was an opportunity to further develop reactive teaching during unobserved lessons.

Question: How much pre-course reading time is there?

I remember we got a welcome email in both courses with the details and suggested reading. In the dip, it might have been about 3 weeks before, with the forum open about 10 days before the beginning of the course. In Delta, the email was about 3 weeks before as well, and the forum was open with pre-course issues and questions two weeks before the starting date.


Question: Do they suggest reading whole books or excerpts?

Answer: I was told by tutors on both courses pretty much the same, that it was impossible to read everything if we didn’t learn to be selective and go for the excerpts that we had to read at that moment. We could always come back to the book later if we wanted to. I do remember however, both diplomas had suggestions of a couple of books that had to be read from cover to cover before the course started.


Question: Do they rank those books by relevance?

I seem to remember the reading was marked as essential or recommended but not really ranked per se. Later on, in the forums, there was more guidance as to the reading. Yes, it was ranked by the tutor as essential, highly recommended, recommended or extra in the forums or when asked. There was also a list of particularly helpful titles suggested by previous candidates.

Question: What are the tutor support and interaction like? Are the tutors going to answer your questions promptly when you get stuck?

Answer: I think this question is very difficult to answer and depended on each tutor and case. Because of the nature of the courses (one online, the other intensive), the need for immediate feedback also varied. Additionally, it also varied based on the tutor and the stage of the course.


The tutors were all lovely people, great professionals and with busy lives I’m sure, so they answered when they could.

The support was via an online platform, moodle and was generally okay depending on the tutor. Sometimes it was the same day sometimes the tutor asked the other students for their opinion which at times wasn’t the most effective way of answering a question from my point of view, it slowed things down a bit and I felt like I was paying for an expert opinion, not a peer’s opinion who was in the same boat as I. Another thing is that even though everyone on the course was very experienced sometimes having to wait for a few answers from people and then the tutor giving his piece took a day or two (or more) and if it was an urgent question to meet a deadline then it was too late. We were told that we could message the tutors via email if needed, but only a few answered promptly.

This is a totally different situation and probably not fair to compare with an online learning setup. As everything was timely, tutors answered our questions by email within hours and before deadlines I can remember getting answers past 12 at night because the deadlines were due the next day. We could also approach them to talk anytime during the day as long as we arranged with them beforehand and course/stage permitting. But always, very quick help which really made all the difference in the world in those moments and for me was often the difference between finishing on time and getting very frustrated especially at the beginning. Another point that was crucial for me was that at the beginning of a topic/section I could get feedback quickly so that I made the correct assumptions and conclusions to build from and expand. In my view, if this stage isn’t afforded quick feedback, one keeps reading and researching but may come to the wrong conclusion.

Question: Chances to interact with other participants – how is communication facilitated?

Answer: Comparing the two courses might not be very fair in this case, as the Dip is mainly online and the Delta I did was fulltime.


Very little during the online phase and strictly on the learning platform. Tutors always encouraged us to interact, talk and communicate but it was difficult and I tried a few times but stopped because of a lack of responses. Somewhat into the course, someone thought of making a WhatsApp group and they did so that made communication a bit better.

Later on, during the teaching practice, we were given a classroom to study and prepare which at all times was ours to use from 8 am to 10 pm. That was very helpful as we could use it if we needed to and when several of us stayed back it was even better as we could bounce ideas off each other.

For 8 weeks you’re basically going through intense training at a Masters level (OFQUAL 7) and everyone is being pushed to their limits. Camaraderie and communication with your peers not only occurs naturally but for me was part of the reason I got through it and finished the course. The friendship and time spent with peers after the day’s sessions was a lifesaver for me and we made it a daily habit to spend 30 min having a beer every day before going home and reading and writing for our next lesson for hours.

Question: What are the input sessions like? Are there input sessions?


There are weekly live lessons online via a very useful and user-friendly platform where everyone can participate. They’re done at 3 different times during the week to make sure that everyone can find a time slot and make it.

The chance of having a lesson with the tutors was very helpful as it made it more personable and being taught by people like Thornbury, Lindsay or guests like Underhill (to just name a few) was very interesting and insightful.

Later on, during the F2F stage, we also had a “lesson clinic” where we could ask questions and received input based on issues we were having during the TP. This input was personalised depending on the group’s issues and problems so it was on the spot and very useful.

During the fulltime course we had daily input sessions of about an hour and a half, sometimes even twice a day covering all the topics we needed for the course which was very helpful, to say the least. Being able to ask questions and have the tutor and peers right there every day for 8 weeks made all the difference for me as I could ask about any doubts I may have and get answers immediately.


Question: What is the teaching practice like?


You have several months a year to choose from, and then its 3 weeks intensive teaching practice where you have to do 4 internal assessed lessons (I didn’t do the internally assessed mock) and one externally assessed by a Trinity assessor. In between, you have unassessed lessons to keep up with the student’s lessons as it’s a real classroom environment with real students that pay for lessons. When I was there, we had really large groups of about 17 on a daily basis and up to 21-22 at times. I really liked that because it gave me the opportunity to learn classroom management with large numbers which is something I hadn’t done before.

You also usually do the Phonology interview at the same time, at the end of the teaching practice.

If doing the full-time M2 Delta as I did, people seem to underestimate how demanding and taxing it will be. I remember week two being one of the most stressful experiences I’ve had in a long time. I can safely say I underestimated my capacity to deal with the pressure and the energy needed to be 100% every day. We had three types of lessons: unobserved, unassessed and assessed. All lessons were dictated by the rotary which ensured that as much as possible, everyone had a similar amount of time in between assessed lessons to prepare. The unassessed lessons were a great opportunity to practice and make the most of the chance to try something and get tutor feedback before doing it for the assessed lesson. Of course, we weren’t allowed to do the same thing, but for practising approaches or techniques it was perfect. Groups were around 8-14.

Question: What is the lesson planning like?

For me, lesson planning was hectic and sometimes took me the best part of 6-14 hours. The hardest part was when assessed lessons were the very next day, then the tiredness and the pressure mounted up and were difficult to manage at times. Having the assessment criteria spelt out from day one was a great help and a good checklist. The learner profiles had to be very detailed and the lesson plans had no limit although were advised to keep it to a readable length as the tutors had to read the lesson 15 minutes before the lesson, comment on it and then we taught. I remember some of my lessons were very long. References to background reading were highly encouraged but not as essential as in Delta.

In Delta, there is a background essay that has to be done before the actual lesson plan and which contains all the theory and rationale about the lesson title as a whole. Then the lesson plan is, in essence, the application of that theory in the classroom specifically for that lesson. Both must be submitted and pass to get a pass, although seems that the lesson plan and teaching had more weight than the background essay. A minimum of 8 references to background reading was essential, with an excess of 10-12 being recommended.

I remember that the whole process took me the better part of a week, and I calculated my fully referenced writing speed (including reading) was about 150 words per hour. The background essay is 2000-2500 words and the lesson plan about the same, so each document would take me anything between 10-16 hours. Since we had to write two of them, that’s between 20-32 hours in about 7-10 days. I dedicated approximately 4 hours a day to assessed lesson planning.


Question: What’s the feedback from the tutors like?


There’s feedback before and after each lesson which really helps.

The tutor reads through the plan and discusses it with you right before the lesson and touches on the procedure and asks about the procedure and other things relevant to teaching. After the lesson, you have about 30 min to fill in a reflection sheet about the lesson and then there’s another oral feedback session with the tutor of about 20 min where the lesson is discussed in hindsight and you expand on the points on the reflection sheet and/or answer questions from the tutor on the lesson.

You then get the full written feedback report with the lesson graded against the criteria and comments.

I found this way of getting feedback from the tutors very different at the beginning but I feel it was very effective because you have to verbalise what you’re thinking and forces you to be very clear and have things very clearly spelt out in your mind or you cannot say them when you’re on the spot. Reflecting on the lesson immediately afterwards and filling in the sheet is also very helpful as that is the lesson reflection you later have to submit in your portfolio and its extremely helpful to do it immediately after the lesson so you don’t forget anything.

There was a group feedback session the next morning where your group peers gave feedback based on the class notes they took during the lesson. We were all encouraged to observe each other and comment based on the notes taken according to the set criteria on the observation sheet. Then the tutor gave their feedback and the lesson was discussed briefly. After that, we got a document with written feedback from the tutor expanding on points from the feedback session (which was also emailed to us to keep for the Professional Development file).

The main bulk of the feedback was written and given about 24 hours after the lesson. It was the 5a form and had a detailed evaluation of the lesson, performance and tutor comments as well as the grade.

I found that the group feedback was very helpful to get input from other experienced teachers and based on the observation notes made it relevant and focused. It gave feedback a different dimension as you got to see yourself from different angles and perspectives which boosted confidence at times and at others really left no doubt about the issues that I had to work on as they were obvious to everyone.

Question: What’s the Phonology interview like?

It’s 30 min with a Trinity examiner where you’re asked about the practice and theory of phonology, implications for learners with different L1’s and you present a specific lesson and focus. You’re also asked to transcribe an utterance which you just hand in and don’t get any feedback on.  Depending on the examiner it can be more like a chat between colleagues where the examiner takes on the role of a less knowledgeable colleague and asks questions about phonology in general and about your presentation. You take on the role of the more knowledgeable one and explain yourself in two different ways: one showing how you explain the phonological features of your lesson to the class (physicality, proprioception, etc) and the other as a teacher to your colleague with the correct jargon and technicalities. Although, I’ve heard that for different people it went differently. This is how it was for me. You don’t get the grade for the interview until a few days later and it’s usually at the same time you get the overall grade for the teaching practice. This was very nice, you know your results within days (except for Unit 1, the written exam). Doesn’t have one, but you can focus on phonology in one of your LSA’s. I chose phonology for my LSA 4.

Question: What are the assessed lessons like? Are there specific points that are must-do or more valued?

Assessed lessons are in essence you teaching and an examiner/tutor in the corner taking observation notes on your performance and the lesson as well as the learners. There are about 40 points to meet and you get full commentary on all points. There’s a set of “must pass” points and they’re clearly marked. There also seemed to be special attention from the tutors on the “need to work on points” you had from the last lesson. I remember a few different tutors asking me what I was going to do about the points I needed to work on and checking I had specifically done something about it. That was very good in my opinion as it made sure that there was solid progress from one lesson to the other in terms of meeting the reflective cycle and working on one’s own mistakes.

Assessed lessons were also you teaching and the examiner/tutor in the corner taking notes and filling in the assessment criteria form. There were no specific “must do” points, not as clearly spelt out as on the Dip but on websites like eltconcourse it was very clearly explained and after the first LSA where you got the first 5a form with the criteria it was easier to see what needed attention. There were nearly 40 points to meet as well on the 5a.

I made an effort to take all my “need to work on” points from my previous feedback reports and make a reflective checklist that I took into the lessons with me. We could also ask our tutors to look out for specific things we wanted to improve in as well during the assessed lessons which for me was instrumental because I could get an expert opinion and feedback on my issues and if I had truly overcome them or at least addressed them.

It’s also worth mentioning that the pressure to pass the externally assessed lesson on both diplomas is huge, especially knowing that it carries a lot of weight. The moments leading up to and preparing for it can be quite nervewracking. On both diplomas, the examiners were very polite and seemed aware of that fact and even though you only meet them once, twenty minutes before the lesson on Delta, and a few hours before on the Dip, they both made an effort to be as “invisible” as possible; sometimes by choosing to sit somewhere at an angle that wasn’t in your direct line of sight, or by pretending they weren’t really there and (seemed like) they didn’t even look at you. The Trinity examiner that assessed me asked if they could record the lesson and I agreed, which is something that I really appreciate as for me, it adds reliability and is less subjective in a way. If any questions arise, I know Trinity has an audio recording of my lesson that can be reviewed to clarify things.

In conclusion:

In hindsight, I am extremely happy I am doing both diplomas. I wouldn’t recommend anyone do as I have and do both, or say that it is needed in order to be a good teacher. Any of the two courses will help you develop as a teacher in imaginable ways and open your eyes to things that might be impossible to learn by experience alone.

In a way, I also feel that the maybe broader perspective and experience gained by learning from a large variety of world-class tutors and writers is invaluable. I am really thankful to have been given the opportunity by the people responsible on each course to take these courses as I feel that I have had a truly unique opportunity and experience in being trained by the top two ELT institutions: Cambridge and Trinity College London via some of the top two centres in the world, International House Barcelona and Oxford TESOL Barcelona respectively. It was an intense and challenging experience and at times I remember wishing I hadn’t but all in all I’m happy I did, I know it’s permanently boosted my confidence as a teacher.

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February 21, 2020

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